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Anger Management: Pity and the Pedestal

If you are in a relationship, occasionally feeling angry with your partner is an inevitable part of growing together. The resolution of conflict in a win-win manner is what builds emotional intimacy between two people. In order to make anger work for, rather than against the relationship, it is helpful to gain some insight into how anger may manifest itself. It may not always be obvious.

Anger comes in all shapes and sizes.The most common form is the overt variety. The overtly angry person is intense, fiery, visibly upset. They may yell, blame, accuse, criticize and can be quite intimidating. The overtly angry person is at risk to get into trouble with their expression of anger and they are frequently found in anger management programs either by court order or by order of their significant other. These angry people tend to act their anger out.

Another common, yet less obvious example of an angry person is one who utilizes a passive-aggressive style of expression. They walk away from an important conflict; they sulk and pout; they don’t show up; they don’t answer the phone; they drop the iron curtain on communication with a stoney silence. This type of angry person may be less intimidating, but they can remarkably beat up another person with their sullenness, reticence and unavailability. These angry people tend to act their anger in.

Then there are those people who use pity and the pedestal. These types of angry people are usually found in abusive relationships where they unwittingly participate in a cyclical pattern of being treated poorly. They tend to disown their own legitimate experience of anger at someone’s bad behavior by substituting pity for that person or by putting them on a pedestal. You might hear these angry people make remarks like: “Oh, he works so hard and has so much stress; I feel sorry for him, so I ignore his bad behavior.” or “She is such a beautiful and successful person who is in demand and so admired by others, she can get away with being mean and over-reactive.”

Disowning your experience of legitimate anger through pity and the pedestal is not a good way to take care of yourself. If you don’t have your anger, sooner or later it will have you. It might likely come out “sideways” somewhere on a spectrum of emotional pain that ranges from rage to depression.

When a person takes responsibility for their anger, they communicate about it in the first person: “I feel angry when you treat me poorly and I am requesting you work on that in the spirit of helping our relationship to continue to grow stronger.”  This appropriate expression of anger utilizes the feeling for its best and highest purpose: healthy change.

So please check it out. If you are pitying someone or putting them on a pedestal, you might be peeved, instead. Maybe you don’t like the way you are being treated and you are backing down from speaking your personal truth on the issue. Don’t disown your anger; just have it responsibly with the goal of growing your relationship so that both participants feel enriched as a result.

2 thoughts on “Anger Management: Pity and the Pedestal

  1. I find it remarkable how seldom the three honest words “I am angry” are used in relationships. All the game playing and dancing around that truth really complicates things.
    Thanks for sharing your insights on this important topic.

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